Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town / Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock / Book Review

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town

Blurb

In a small town, you are forever defined by the worst thing that ever happened to you.

This short story cycle revolves around the lives of young people in small towns scattered across Alaska and the American West. Each story dives into the hidden drama of small town life, revealing what happens under the placid cover of spaces where seemingly nothing happens. From sled dogs and snow to wildfires and late-night rendezvouses, this book beautifully weaves together the lives of a group of American teens circa 1995. 

Pros

  • Wild West: The U.S. is a vast country, full of all sorts of regional distinctions. Even in small towns, these distinctions are apparent. A Midwest small town is vastly different than a Western town, and that distinction here is well-defined--in a good way. Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock fuels these small towns with their regional flare. From the sled dogs and snows of Alaska to the spark-away-from-wildfire life of Colorado, the writing is evocative and grounding at the same time. Crashing Pacific waves, gas guzzlers, and mountains: everything that makes the West exciting and unique weaves its way into these small-town tales. 
  • Short Story Cycle: Each story in this book stands complete in itself, but this is not just a collection of thematically-connected stories. Each story is intertwined with the rest. Short story collections are hard to come by, and short story cycles are rarer still. I will admit that short story cycles hold a special place in my life--I did dedicate an entire thesis to them, after all. It takes a special talent and intentionality to write a short story cycle, something that many short story writers don't commit to do. These little connections tie the collection into a mosaic, one big story made out of many smaller ones. 
  • Big Impressions in Small Towns: Though the stories in this cycle are more or less mundane, the characters are down-to-earth and tangible. They struggle under the weight of their small towns. Their stories are full of heart and emotion--because life goes on even in towns of less than 2,000 people. Not every story needs to take place in NYC or LA to have purpose and character. It is nice to have realistic characters living out their lives even in these small places. Friend trouble, wildfires, family drama, and religious turmoil: big problems and small are all wrapped into one book.

Cons

  • Mundane: Though the characters are well developed, the stories themselves are benign. There's nothing wrong with them, necessarily, but overall, they're not that interesting. There's not much that is memorable. They're certainly well-written but aren't intriguing. They're not stories that I'll be coming back to at the end of the day. 
  • Mixed Bag: One common downside to short story collections is that not all stories are great. That is especially true in anthologies, but the mixed-bag nature of this cycle is true despite it having only a single author. The first few stories didn't hit it off for me. Though I found some buried-jewel stories later on, those stories may just be a little too buried. That is, some readers won't get to them, because some readers won't have the stamina to push through. 
  • Mostly Forgettable: This final critique is ultimately the culmination of my other two. Though there is a scene or two that will stick with me, most of these stories won't stay with me long. In fact, I've forgotten some of them already, even as I'm writing this review--which isn't really a good sign. These stories, though well-written, are benign and not particularly compelling. So there's nothing much to stick with me in the end. 

Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
6/10

Anyone who enjoyed the small-town vibe of Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter will love sinking into these small-town lives. Those craving more short stories after Patrice Caldwell's A Phoenix First Must Burn should check out this cycle of short-and-sweet new tales. 

Details

Publisher: Random House/Lamb
Date: April 1, 2021
Series: N/A
Buy It HERE

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

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